TORONTO — For one night only, the players come to the scouts.
NHL scouts from all 31 clubs will be in attendance when 40 draft-eligible skaters suit up in the Canadian Hockey League’s annual Top Prospects Game on Wednesday at the Enmax Centrium in Red Deer, Alta.
The Western Hockey League leads the way with 16 of the 40 invited skaters, while 15 from the Ontario Hockey League and nine from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League are also vying for attention from scouts ahead of June’s NHL draft.
Here are 10 players looking to stand out amongst their peers when Team Orr and Team Cherry square off on Wednesday night.
Kirby Dach, Saskatoon Blades (43 GP, 18 G, 50 Pts.)
Dach is the top-ranked North American skater that will be participating in this year’s prospects game. He’s No. 2 overall on Central Scouting’s midterm rankings behind American Jack Hughes. The six-foot-four, 183 pound centre got an early start on his major junior career when he was allowed to finish the 2016-17 season as a 15-year-old in the WHL after beginning the year with his hometown Fort Saskatchewan midget triple-A squad. Dach was selected as captain for Team Orr.
Dylan Cozens, Lethbridge Hurricanes (45 GP, 25 G, 58 Pts.)
Cozens is ranked No. 3 on midterm rankings and is the highest-scoring skater amongst draft-eligible WHLers heading into the prospects game. The six-foot-three, 185-pound centre put himself on the radar when he produced 22 goals and 53 points in 57 games to win the WHL rookie of the year award in 2017-18. Cozens moved away at 14 from his hometown of Whitehorse, Yukon, to play prep school hockey in B.C. He will be wearing the captain’s C for Team Cherry.
Bowen Byram, Vancouver Giants (43 GP, 16 G, 43 Pts.)
Byram is the top-ranked defenceman and No. 4 overall on the NHL’s Central Scouting list, and is proving himself worthy of the nod with his play in the first half of his season. The six-foot-one, 192 pounder from Cranbrook, B.C., leads all WHL defencemen with 16 goals and, according to his coach Michael Dyck, is finding success because of his skating and vision. Before joining Vancouver in 2017-18, he played one year of prep school hockey in B.C, alongside Cozens.
Peyton Krebs, Kootenay Ice (44 GP, 16 G, 53 Pts.)
Krebs is leading his Kootenay squad in scoring by a large margin and is the only skater averaging over a point per game playing for a team that has struggled offensively and sits near the bottom of the WHL standings. The five-foot-11, 180-pound centre is ranked No. 8 on the midterm rankings and went No. 1 in the 2016 WHL draft, ahead of guys like Byram and Dach, after playing his minor hockey in his hometown of Okotoks, Alta.
Thomas Harley, Mississauga Steelheads (45 GP, 8 G, 38 Pts.)
Harley is the highest ranked player from the OHL and No. 9 overall in midterm rankings (second amongst defenceman behind Byram). He’s taken on a top-pairing role in his second season with Mississauga after a strong end to his rookie year and is fifth in scoring amongst blueliners. Harley, six-foot-three 183 pounds, calls Syracuse, N.Y. his hometown but is a dual citizen and was part of Hockey Canada’s under-17 program in 2017.
Arthur Kaliyev, Hamilton Bulldogs (46 GP, 33 G, 68 Pts.)
Kaliyev was an OHL rookie of the year finalist last season and has taken his game up a level this year to land at No. 11 on the midterm rankings. The six-foot-two, 185-pound right winger calls Staten Island, N.Y., home and has a Russian background. He’s the top goal scorer at the prospects game. His numbers have him seventh overall in the OHL scoring race.
Raphael Lavoie, Halifax Mooseheads (43 G, 21 G, 45 Pts.)
Lavoie is the top-ranked skater out of the QMJHL and No. 13 on the midterm rankings. Lavoie was invited to this year’s world junior selection camp, but was one of the early cuts. Beyond the prospects game, the six-foot-four, 198-pound right-winger from Chambly, Que., will be giving scouts tons of opportunity to see his game with his Halifax team hosting the 2019 Memorial Cup.
Brett Leason, Prince Albert Raiders (39 GP, 31 G, 73 Pts.)
The 19-year-old forward has been looked over at the past two NHL drafts and wasn’t even invited to play in either of the last two prospects games. But the Calgary native has had a breakout season in 2018-19 that began with a 30-game point streak and the WHL lead in scoring when he was invited to Canada’s world junior selection camp in December. The six-foot-four, 199-pound Leason had never cracked Central Scouting’s top 200, but is currently ranked No. 17.
Nolan Foote, Kelowna Rockets (43 GP, 22 G, 42 Pts.)
Foote is hoping to emulate his older brother Cal, first with an appearance at the prospects game and then being taken in the first round of the NHL draft like the Tampa Bay Lightning prospect was in 2017. Nolan, a six-foot-three, 188-pound left winger, is No. 26 on the midterm rankings and is the son of former NHL defenceman Adam Foote, who plays the role of father and coach with Kelowna. Unlike his dad and brother, Nolan is a forward. Colorado is considered home as he played his minor hockey there while his dad played with the Avalanche.
Hunter Jones, Peterborough Petes (39 GP, 21-16-2, 3.18 goals-against average, .910 save percentage)
Jones is the top-ranked goaltender at the game and No. 2 overall on the midterm rankings behind American Spencer Knight. The six-foot-four, 194-pound Jones has cooled off since a strong start to the season that earned him a spot in the CHL/Russia Series, but has been heavily relied upon as a first-time starter. The Brantford, Ont., native has played the most games and faced the most shots out of any OHL netminder this season.